(Bel Air, MD) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team will make its 13th appearance at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship Tournament after winning the District N Championship Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9, in Bel Air, Md.
The Grizzlies, 23-12 punched their ticket to this year’s event after defeating Harford Community College 25-14, 25-8, 25-16 for the district title. The Grizzlies will leave Nov. 18 to compete in the national tournament in Casper, Wyo., the event’s home for the next three seasons. Seedings and pairings for the tournament will be announced later this week.
Saturday’s contest was the second meeting between the Grizzlies and Harford for the district title, and Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said her team, which in the past had advanced to nationals after winning the Region 16 title, was more prepared for this new step in the postseason process.
“Last year, we didn’t know what to expect, but this year, we were ready for a team that could do some things. Harford is a better team this year,” she said.
Even so, she added, “I felt like we controlled the game. At times, I think, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, and we tried to do too much with the ball, but we played well.”
Statistically, the Grizzlies were led by sophomore outside attacker Nella Ioramo, who had 10 kills on 19 attempts with three errors for an attacking percentage of .368. She was followed by sophomore middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu with 9 kills on 20 attempts with three errors for an attacking percentage of .300; sophomore outside attacker Helena Peric with 8 kills on 17 attempts with four errors for an attacking percentage of .235; and freshman middle attacker Leondra Barrett with 4 kills on 10 attempts and no errors for an attacking percentage of .400. Barrett also had four blocks, including three solos.
Freshman setter Brianna Zebert led in assists with 26, and freshman libero Alyssa Aldag led in digs with 11 and aces with four.
“Everyone played a solid game,” Wiedemann said. “We wanted to get in there and take care of business, and we accomplished that.”
The Grizzlies also had some encouragement from the stands. Former players Edna Chumo (2001-02), who lives and works as a nurse in Baltimore, Md., and Anna Dmwoska (2002-03), who lives in Philadelphia, Penn., and is studying to become a nurse, attended the match to give vocal and moral support to the team. Both had an opportunity to visit with the players and share their memories of playing for the Grizzlies and competing in the national tournament.
Wiedemann said the visits helped the Grizzlies “understand and appreciate where we are and the opportunity we have. You never know what you will be able to do together, but you have to do it together.”
As for their potential opponents in the tournament, Wiedemann said the Grizzlies it will be interesting to see who their first-round opponent will be and the potential path they might take to the championship game.
“We have to play the game a certain way, and we need to prepare that way. There will not be an easy game. They’re all going to be tough. It’s about how we play the game and make adjustments to our opponent that matters,” she explained.
Wiedemann also praised the hospitality the Grizzlies received from their hosts and their fans, explaining many of them showed great appreciation for the Grizzlies and the way they played.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/.